May Mental Health Awareness Blogs brought to you by Light 4 the Darkness
The Uninvited Guest just appears–entitled, bossy and ever so critical.
They follow me incessantly, like flies on dung, and know just what to say to keep me isolated:
“It’s warm here in bed and you can’t make things worse from here.
You’ll have to contrive a smile to disguise the true mess inside.
And forget about brushing your teeth; just get new ones in a few years, when I’m gone.
Today is a loss anyway. Why try?!”
Have you heard the cruel voice of an Uninvited Guest? This is one glimpse of what depression feels like to me, and it may feel different to others. Uninvited Guests can take many forms. For example, the anxious variety–the fear monger and nay-sayer–arrives just in time to tell you all the reasons not to go where you need to go or do what you need to do. And unfortunately, the Guests can even travel together–depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders…
Whether singularly or together, these Uninvited Guests thwart our ability to thrive. They impede our capacity to love God. They hinder our ability to love ourselves and see ourselves as beautifully and wonderfully made by God. They wreak havoc on relationships and communities. And they are rarely spoken about, especially in churches.
So, what are we to do about the Uninvited Guest?
It would be inhospitable to kick them to the curb. They are a part of ourselves, deserving compassion. Healing often starts with understanding.
It would be life-giving to acknowledge them in our churches. It would be healing for our pastors, elders, deacons, and presbyteries to acknowledge the realities of living with mental health variances. It would be redemptive as the Body, to stand together in learning to live with Uninvited Guests. And, it is difficult to figure these things out alone in darkness, which is raison d’être for Light 4 the Darkness (L4TD).
Through 30 years of treatment-resistant major depressive disorder, I have survived many dark hopeless periods, which inform my work through L4TD. I am privileged to have tried most everything–from homeopathy, to acupuncture, every pharmaceutical and therapy modality… I kept looking for the therapist, medicine or treatment that would make me happy. I have finally learned that the binary goal of happy is rarely achieved and it is not one magical thing that moves us toward happy. It is a combination of all the things we do to care for ourselves in concert with the love of God and our community. The four most important tools of my Wellbeing Plan have been the reminder of God’s unconditional love through Francis (2018-, on the left) and Mr. T Rex (2006-2020, on the right), non-binary thinking, yoga, and communal faith. Non-binary thinking allows me to appreciate the less bad days instead of waiting until I arrive at the illusive “happy” to begin life. Yoga reminds me to breathe through life’s difficulties, that situations do not last forever, and that I have the agency to change these situations. And God used communal faith, the faith of those around me, to remind me of God’s promises when darkness kept me from feeling God’s presence. To write your own Wellbeing Plan, start here.
Light 4 the Darkness is one such place of communal faith, L4TD exists, as our mission statement says, “to lift up individuals with mental health variances toward light, peace, and hope through deeper connection with God, themselves, and their neighbors.” L4TD is not a replacement for therapy or psychiatry but will help members find referrals when requested. We are spiritual, emotional companions amidst the variances–one piece of the total well-being plan that helps buoy the spirit.
We have grown from one weekly group in 2017 to three distinct groups meeting a total of eight times per month. L4TD Fellowship, a Zoom-based, weekly, worshipful support group allows members to connect without leaving home, which is vital to those living with the Uninvited Guests named depression and anxiety. Second, our monthly Fireside Spirituality chat offers a safe space to come just as we are, explore faith and doubts, even and especially without the label of Christian; many of our folks are post-church and post-Christian. Our most recent addition, Grounded Gardening, offers space to connect with God through creation, and experience relief through gardening, weeding, meditating, and creating bouquets. Lastly, Our Selah is Light for the Darkness’s offshoot for clergy, which meets as a worshipful support group twice monthly. For more on these groups and to join us, MeetUp.com.
L4TD recently received survey results stating that 100% of participants “felt heard” and L4TD benefited 89% of participants’ mental/emotional health; these are stellar stats for which we give God thanks and invite you to support us in continuing these results. During the month of May your gifts will be matched up to $10,000. We need to raise $50,000 by December to maintain our life-giving support groups. Please join us in bringing the Light. Give here.
The Uninvited Guests are more prevalent than we realize and they do not discriminate; more than half of us will live with mental health variances in our lifetime and one in five will this year. While there is no simple solution, we are invited as individuals and as a faith community to work together for health and Light 4 the Darkness is one place this happens. Email us if we can help you or someone you know.
Written by Rev. Thirza Sayers
Exec. Dir., Light 4 the Darkness
Pastor, Hillside Presbyterian
 Mental health variance is the term that I have collaboratively created to speak about what many call mental illness, including depression and anxiety; this term allows for lighter days and darker days without feeling stuck in a label and it includes everyone.
 Kessler RC, Angermeyer M, Anthony JC, et al. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative. World Psychiatry. 2007;6(3):168-176.
Reinert, M, Fritze, D. & Nguyen, T. “The State of Mental Health in America 2022.” October 2021: Mental Health America, Alexandria VA, 20.